I lay on the couch, unable to get up due to back pain, an unfortunate result of spending the previous afternoon bent over weeding in my garden. Muscles I didn’t even know existed are aching, making it difficult to carry out the activities of my day. As I lay there in agony, a question comes to mind. Are there other gardeners out there like me, trying to navigate the hazards of their hobby? Aching muscles, back pain, scratches from rogue thorns, insect bites, and sunburn are just the tip of the iceberg. Besides the physical ailments, I have found that there are many other hazards of being a gardener like me.
Firstly, if you are a gardener like me, you might as well kiss your savings account goodbye. As your gardening hobby becomes more of an obsession, you will start to notice that your wallet automatically ejects money every time you enter a garden center or nursery. If you think you can avoid said monetary ejection by merely not visiting places that sell plants, think again. Seed catalogs will fill your mailbox, testing your resolve, and online garden shops will woo you into adding items to your cart with just the click of a button.
Sure, I could buy tomatoes at the grocery store for $2.49 a pound, but why would I when I’m a gardener like me? Instead, I’ll willingly open my wallet to buy seeds, heating mats, grow lights, potting soil, pots, domes, tomato cages, and mulch. I’ll spend weeks pampering my seedlings, keeping a watchful eye out for the myriad of diseases and pests that can befall them. At the end of the season, if I’m lucky, I will stand triumphant in my garden with a handful of tomatoes.
If you are a gardener like me, your will power is fleeting when you see the latest gardening tools on display. Tools abound for every possible gardening task, and I’ve discovered that resisting their call is futile. A new pair of gardening gloves with Velcro closures? An ergonomically designed trowel? A couple of pruners that telescope to ten feet? Never even planted a bulb? Well, you might want to someday, so you should place that bulb auger into the cart.
If you are a gardener like me, you will wish to speak the language of the plants, playing the name game with ease. However, you will quickly realize that you practically have to be a professor with a Ph.D. in Latin to do so. Remembering all the scientific names for the thousands of plant species out there seems a monumental task, and yet, you stand in awe as other gardeners speak the language as if it is their native tongue.
Beware the need to collect. If you are a gardener like me, you will quickly realize the allure of new cultivars. You may have a dozen or so different begonias, but look, a new variety just debuted! It must come home with you. A new variety of raspberry that is yellow? A purple pea? An orange cauliflower? I must grow it! Be warned; your plant obsession may lead to a lack of space in the garden. No matter, your brain will say ‘no’ but your heart will say ‘yes’ when staring at that new peony plant at the nursery. If you’re a gardener like me, your heart usually wins.
You may even resort to sneaking plants into the house or garden beds, hoping your spouse won’t notice, too ashamed to admit that your will power failed again. Visits to the nursery will strategically coincide with your spouse’s out-of-town business trips. Upon return, they might ask if the three houseplants in the living room are new, to which you will guiltily reply, “No, they’ve always been there, you just didn’t notice.” If you’re a gardener like me, they will see through your fib.
If you’re a gardener like me, you quickly realize there is a never-ending deluge of weeds that will regularly lay siege to your garden beds. You secretly covet the weed-free beds displayed in the gardening magazines you peruse. You wonder if they are real or just Photoshopped because, despite hours of relentless weeding, yours never look that good.
If you’re a gardener like me, failures will become commonplace. There is a seemingly endless list of diseases and pests that can attack your precious plants. Despite your best efforts, late blight might confiscate your tomatoes, or your newly prized Asiatic lily will succumb to scarlet lily beetles. You will lay awake at night, wondering if there was anything more you could have done to save them. Should you have enrolled in a plant CPR and First Aid class? Would it have made a difference?
Alas, if you’re a gardener like me, after every failure, and despite every hardship or obstacle, you’ll rally. Why? Because despite all the hazards, I love gardening and all that it entails. While the tomatoes at the grocery store are $2.49 a pound and I spent WAY more than that to grow my own, the taste of the homegrown variety is so much sweeter. The satisfaction gained from having grown it yourself is worth all the hazards. The experiences you gain, and the knowledge and lessons you learn, make all the headaches, muscle aches, and heartaches worth it.
You will hold your head high and proudly declare, “I grew it myself!” because you are a gardener, and, if you’re like me, despite all of your shortcomings, you will be proud of your accomplishments as you should be.
Now, please tell me that there are at least a few gardeners out there that are like me; otherwise, I might have to admit I have a problem.